This Pride Month, Griffin read as many LGBTQ+ graphic novels as possible. He asked for recommendations from other booksellers and reviewed his top six! Here they are!
JUGHEAD VOL 1
by Chip Zdarsky, illustrated by Erica Henderson
I have poo-pooed Archie comics for almost fifty years. The Archie Comics were not for me: mostly bland, low-stakes, and driven by terrible jokes. Archie has changed. The emphasis on stories and jokes has been swapped and now its not about the stupid jokes, but a story with a lot of stupid jokes in it! And Jughead Vol 1 plants this cult favorite firmly in the new millennium. You know his motives: not girls, not cars, not money or fame. He just wants to mind his own business, read a few comics, play some video games, and find something to eat. Oh also, he’s asexual. And it’s great.
Every issue has a complete subplot that parallels with and braids into a higher stakes, long form story. Henderson’s artwork is clean, simple, and characters are eminently recognizable even in multiple costumes. Where Sabrina is downright challenging with its dark, witchy elements, and Archie focusses on his relationships with Betty and Veronica, Jughead eschews romance for his own agenda, and manages to become a full and vibrant personality that makes for an engaging read.
I don’t poo-poo Archie comics anymore.
DeadEndia: The Watcher’s Test: Book 1
by Hamish Steele
DeadEndia: The Watcher’s Test: Book 1 (words and pictures by Hamish Steele) chronicles the experiences of Barney, whose recent and mysterious homelessness has led to living in the haunted house of a seedy local theme park where they work during the day. And it seems to be going fine, though tricky, until it gets just downright difficult when Barney discovers a gateway to hell open in the haunted house.
Barney ‘Bruce-Campbells’ their way along with a band of allies in an attempt to both save the theme park and, you know, stop the demons from hell from taking over the earth. Like a working man’s zombie killer movie, Barney experiences the practical aspects of demon fighting, and that’s comedy.
Steele uses a simple cartooning style to create relatable characters whose appearance parallels their personalities. Its understated style punches up the complexity of relationships between Barney and their friends, and enhances the unpredictability of each plot point. And it’s only the first volume!
The Accursed Vampire
by Madeline McGrane
In The Accursed Vampire, the first page tells me that Dragoslava was born in 1460, “they’re a vampire and they wear a really cool cape.” And that just about sums up the tone of this delight! Dragoslava’s life is a child’s, but has been awfully long, and even with their two best friends running around all night, they bear a secret burden: a witch’s curse. And that witch wants some pretty messed up action from Dragoslava. Is it better to be safe or loyal? I mean, how much can you expect from one little vampire? But, friendship is magic, and new magic comes from new friends. Dragoslava has more freedom than they think.
Funny, weird, simply illustrated in clean lines and clear color, this is like a light sweetbread of daily life where identity is just as important as it has ever been, and the freedom to choose one’s path is really the greatest power a vampire can have.
While these previous three works are appropriate for even very young readers, the following are a bit more grown up.
That Full Moon Feeling
by Ashley Robin Franklin
That Full Moon Feeling reminded me what it felt like to be trying to fall in love and just unsure; ya know–oh, you’ll know when it happens! Or NOT. Relationship-ing is hard already, but what if your identities are vastly different? Should you care? And Universe forbid that one of you is a werewolf and the other a witch. Dating Apps? Blecch. When-to-call anxiety? Eew. Monthly transformations and a history of being burnt at the stake? Eek!
Ashley Robin Franklin is a local Austin author, and a friend to the store. I like how Franklin’s smooth heavy lines lend Suzy and Jada vulnerability in spite of their recognizable competence maneuvering through their initial three dates. It was like that for me, too: embarrassing, anxious, rewarding, warm. I liked Suzy and Jada and their insistence on mutual happiness. You will, too.
by Chip Zdarsky, illustrated by Kagan McLeod
Somewhere between the Flash Gordon movie with its Queen soundtrack and Masters of the Universe, comes Kaptara. With its gonzo aliens, tongue-in-cheek hero designs, and a gay protagonist, Kaptara unfurls as a hilarious and high-stakes adventure. Ridiculous monsters, trumpian villains, and a hierarchy of good versus evil in some of the silliest costumes and personalities in a story with unusually high stakes, and a laugh per panel. From a duck-helmed warrior, to a ridiculously gonadal prince, to an aphorism toting encouragement orb, to his cat-costumed guide, Keith Kanga, a dilettante xeno-biologist who conned his way into and interstellar mission, learns to face his own indolence and selfish actions to become the reluctant hero. Ugh, scruples. And, ya know what? He becomes a better person.
Chip Zdarsky shows his range (he writes Jughead and illustrates Sex Criminals) filling it out with this improbable setting and a real-person interaction. Keith wanders through a Saga-like worldscape with Oz-like entities with world-encompassing ambitions. Mcleod’s artwork bursts with energy through a unique, though a bit familiar world–it’s funny, it’s high risk, it’s genre, and it’s unique.
by David Booher, illustrated by Claudia Balboni, Harry Saxon, and Lucas Gattoni
Finally, meet KILLER QUEENS! Right in the title you get all you could want plus! Max and Alex are partners in crime, assassins who have recently been hired to kill a group of children, but just decided that maybe they don’t wanna be assassins. Their last client (don’t call him “fluffy”) has determined they must finish the job, so their lives are quite complicated when they are hired to rescue two dilettante rich-kids posing as revolutionaries. Fabulous fifties retro-futurism go!
Max loves men, Alex loves tacos, and the two of them adventure across the criminal landscape of a far flung future in retro-sci-fi style. Very HEAVY METAL MAGAZINE. Balboni’s pencils and inks are the perfect vehicle for the snarky duo with fantastic tech, delightful costumes, and plausible interstellar life!